The St. Petersburg Times has interviewed former high-ranking Scientology officials who coordinated the intelligence gathering and supervised the retrieval of staff who left, or "blew."
They say the church, led by David Miscavige, wanted to contain the threat that those who left might reveal secrets of life inside Scientology.
Marty Rathbun, a former church official and confidant of Miscavige, said the leader especially targeted those he had edged aside during his rise to the top or anyone he feared might threaten his position or the church if left alone on the outside.
When the church founder L. Ron Hubbard was in charge, "there were no fences," Rathbun said. "If somebody blew, they blew. It wasn't until these purges started with Miscavige — where he was creating enemies and people … became a threat to him — that we went into this overdrive scenario."
Church spokesman Tommy Davis "categorically denied'' Miscavige knew about or was involved in the pursuit of runaways or spying on former members. He said Rathbun and other former staff are liars, taking their own misdeeds and blaming them on Miscavige and the religion they have forsaken. He said they are trying to undermine Miscavige's leadership even as he presides over unprecedented church growth.
Read the full report here.